An Ohio school district is facing a lawsuit from a group of Muslim and Christian parents after allowing students to use bathrooms corresponding to their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.
America First Legal filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of the parents against Bethel Local School District, located north of Dayton, accusing the district of violating the Title IX protections of students and infringing on parental rights.
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According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the Bethel school board adopted a new policy in January 2022 that allowed students to use bathroom facilities based on their gender identity. Previously, transgender students predominantly used a gender-neutral bathroom, according to the lawsuit.
The interfaith group of parents who sued Tuesday say the district is infringing on their ability to exercise their religious beliefs and to direct the upbringing of their children by forcing them to conform to the district’s policy favoring transgender students. The lawsuit also says the district has violated Title IX and Ohio law by implementing the policy.
Gene Hamilton, the general counsel at America First Legal, told the Washington Examiner that school district officials like those in Bethel “are actively destroying fundamental rights in ways that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago.”
“Generations of Americans have grown up in environments that have unquestionably respected students’ personal privacy in intimate spaces, separated by biological sex,” Hamilton said. “Boys are boys, girls are girls, and every student has the right to privacy in intimate spaces that has been enjoyed by every single generation of students before them. We are proud to fight for our clients in this important area.”
Since the policy has been in place, the lawsuit claims that the children of the plaintiffs have felt uncomfortable using the bathroom at school and have resorted to “hold[ing] their urine and avoid[ed] using the restroom at school if at all possible.”
“If the students have to use the restroom, it causes them anxiety and emotional distress because of Bethel’s policies,” the lawsuit says. “It also assaults their modesty as they fear that they will be exposed to the opposite sex.”
The changes were met with concern from community members who “tried to find solutions that would value and respect all members of the community” but were ignored by the board.
In one instance, the lawsuit says a group of local Muslims donated money to the school district to build a gender-neutral bathroom adjacent to existing bathrooms so that transgender students could use that facility. The district built the bathroom but failed to inform the donors it would not require transgender students to use it, the lawsuit claims.
“The Board’s actions keep the community in the dark regarding its new rules and policies for intimate facilities by refusing to answer basic questions parents need to know to make decisions about their child’s education,” the lawsuit says. “The parental right to direct the education, safety, and upbringing of their children is the oldest fundamental right recognized by the Supreme Court. And the Board’s actions deny these parents the same.”
The Washington Examiner has contacted the Bethel Local School District for comment.